Variation of common carotid artery elasticity with intimal-medial thickness: The ARIC study

Ward A. Riley, Gregory W. Evans, A. Richey Sharrett, Gregory L. Burke, Ralph W. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study is a prospective investigation of the etiology and natural history of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in four U.S. communities. The purpose of this work is to investigate the relationship between common carotid artery elasticity and intimal-medial thickness (IMT) in the four race-gender groups represented in the ARIC cohort. Noninvasive ultrasonic methods were used to measure IMT and the [systolic minus diastolic] diameter change (DC) of the left common carotid artery in 10,920 black and white, men and women between the ages of 45 and 64 y. The relationship between DC and IMT and IMT2 was examined after adjustment of DC for age, height, diastolic diameter, diastolic blood pressure and linear and quadratic terms for pulse pressure. This adjusted value of DC was used as an index of elasticity of the common carotid artery in the ARIC cohort with larger values of adjusted DC implying a more elastic vessel. The general behavior of adjusted DC with increasing IMT was observed to be qualitatively similar in all four race-gender groups. Adjusted DC remained nearly constant or increased slightly for values of IMT between approximately 0.4 and 0.8 mm, up to approximately the 90th percentile of IMT, and then decreased above the 90th percentile of IMT. Common carotid artery elasticity, defined as adjusted DC, varies with increasing IMT in the ARIC cohort in a manner consistent with results from previous studies in animals and human subjects addressing the variation of several elasticity indices with atherosclerotic involvement and risk factor exposure in the aorta, and brachial and radial arteries. Our results suggest that thicker common carotid artery walls in middle-aged U.S. populations are no stiffer than thinner walls, except for the thickest 10% of arteries. Since the distal common carotid artery frequently contains atheromatous plaques in this population, the lack of change in stiffness, indeed, the reduction in stiffness per unit thickness, may reflect the various stages of early common carotid atherosclerosis most often found in this population. These are characterized more by destruction of arterial wall structural elements than by changes such as widespread or circumferential sclerosis, which would strengthen and stiffen the artery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 21 1997


  • Arterial elasticity
  • Compliance
  • Distensibility
  • Echo-tracking
  • Elastic modulus
  • Intimal-medial thickness
  • Stiffness
  • Ultrasonic imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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